Wave Theory

May 2011


The last 14-hrs have been a good one for our side in the long war against Islamic extremism. For over a decade, legion of professionals in and out of uniform have been trying to gather enough information on Osama bin Laden to give our leadership an opportunity to bring him to justice. Especially since 9/11, finding this man has been a career field of its own; success is sweet. This is their moment.

In the first wave after the word came out we have seen euphoria, pride, and thanks to all of those who executed an almost flawless mission. Every individual in this chain of professionals can take pride they truly were part of an important event in this war – and reminded the world again the capabilities of our nation’s military when opportunity meets preparation. No other nation could have done this.

Everyone, I hope, is taking time in their own way to bask in this first wave. From the MIDN at Annapolis, to NYC, to the people on my street who were lighting off fireworks at 1am – it was good to be able to celebrate. Enjoy the wave while you can – for most it will peak this afternoon – after that, we need to ponder the second wave.

The second wave is sober reflection.

As the adrenaline wears off, the coffee kicks in, and the mind starts to sort things out – certain facts should come to the front of the sober mind.

  • Check the Operational Diagram. This is not an end state. This is not a “mission accomplished.” This war is not over. Osama’s death is a decisive point – in a way an inflection point. In both a practical and symbolic manner, his death is a victory for us – but only in the proper context. Osama started a franchise operation. When Ray Kroc passed – McDonalds did not go away. There is much more work to be done – this is no time to rest, as the enemy will not rest.
  • Review your Sun Tsu. Though we can define it in any way we wish – often times you are in a war that is defined by your enemy. He wages war for his own reasons, so you need to recognize that so you know the war you are in. This war did not start with 9/11, and it doesn’t end now. This is not a global war against terror – terror is only a tactic. This is a war of culture, religion, world view, and grievance. This is a war with an enemy working within a decentralized, distributed network of command and control – regenerating, morphing, and regrouping with remarkable effectiveness. Their end state is nothing less than the destruction of your culture and way of life. Some may hope that Osama’s death will roll up terror, but hope isn’t a plan and that isn’t how this war will end. Hopefully we snagged enough paper and electronic records at the compound along with his body that we can roll up a lot of Osama’s organization, but that is like picking crabgrass out of your yard by hand – effective in a fashion, but not a cure. The weeds will come back.
  • From FMJ to Tinfoil. Osama body is now in the possession of Hagfish – yet we need to watch how his legend morphs. Most of his followers live in cultures that are soaked in conspiracy theories. Nothing is as it seems, and behind every clear act there is really a back story of intrigue and deceit. With no body to examine – conspiracies will flourish. Take the JFK assassination industry here and add a couple of decimal points, then you might get close.
  • Face and Payback. Things may tamp down a bit as lower level commanders hit the mattresses to preserve themselves until they know the extent of what we got from the compound. Others may want to get revenge for their commander directly or if they have access, they may pull the trigger on sleeper cells. Hard to know, but we should expect that with the killing of their figurehead – the enemy has an extra motivation to get revenge for losing face. Hope that they are too busy saving themselves to plan external operations in the near future – but be prepared for the fact that they can run operations as well as they did in 9/11 and they are a very patient lot.

There we are. A good day. A great day for our Navy SEALs and their supporting commands in Southwest Asia. It is good to remind others about our reach – this is a good Ref. A.

We also need to give a nod to the Commander in Chief. I am sure he was counseled about Desert One. Some probably advised him to go the route of bombing and cruise missile strikes. He didn’t do that though. Some group in his/our national security team briefed him on what was needed – up close and personal with terminal effect. He approved that action – high risk, high reward. Right call – right outcome.

There is another practical take-away as you get through the second wave – another lesson identified for the professional. Technology has its limits, as do precision/smart weapons. Since Publius Horatius, Spurius Lartius, and Titus Herminius Aquilinus stood at the head of the Pons Sublicius – it has always been a man at arms closing the enemy face to face that makes the difference – everything else is supporting arms. This century it was true with Saddam, his sons, and now Osama.

War is not new. It never has been. It never will be. Tools may change – but the essentials remain.

Celebrate, but prepare.

Posted by CDRSalamander in Hard Power, Navy, Travel
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  • I may still be floating in the afterglow a bit here, but there is one other cause for optimism that I can’t shake. We’ve also learned and adapted since 9/11. We expended untold resources on hunting bin Laden, but we’ve also gotten better at this particular thing. Our special operators and those that support them as well as the intelligence collection and analysis that guides them have honed their skills and refined their art into a fearsome capability.

    Bin Laden’s continued existence not only made the U.S. look clumsy and incapable, but others could take psychological comfort not only that we couldn’t find bin Laden in the first place but that we were probably expending a disproportionate amount of resources and effort (given his declining operational significance) hunting for him.

    Our special operators require intelligence including human intelligence and that is dirty, difficult work. The death of bin Laden has no tactical or operational impact on the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan or against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen where innovative transnational attacks are now emanating from.

    But men with guns that don’t exist continue to be an essential component of American counterterrorism efforts. And bin Laden’s death is a reminder and visible demonstration of the awe-inspiring and battle-hardened capability that we now wield. The tools, capabilities and individuals we have had committed to hunting bin Laden now have some extra bandwidth. And they will serve this country well long after our regular forces have begun to withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • Bucherm

    Tinfoil hatters are already whining about the lack of postmortem photos. Of course, if he got shot in the frickin’ head the body might be recognizable, or even if it is the graphic nature might not be fit for public consumption.

    Doesn’t mean anything. There are pictures of Elvis on the slab in the Morgue and people think he’s still alive.

  • Charles


    I am not in the tinfoil hat brigade, but I can sort of understand some of thier conspiracy nuttyness with regards to this. I mean if the FBI was ballsy enough to release photos of Dillinger with rounds in his body following the post-mort. Then why hadn’t the US Government? The issue as Sal laid it out is that in that neck of the world there is a lot of misticism, tinfoil hat stuff, and rumor control running it; that probably nothing sort of a HumVee with the body in the back making rounds to each little village along a goat herd trail, all to just prove that the #1 terrorist is dead.

    I hate to say this but terrorism is more then just one man. A number of people forget that. Before OBL it was Carlos the Jackal, Arafat, Khomeni, Hezbollah, Hamas, Red Army Faction, Munich, Gerry Adams; I could go on but that is the truth, terrorism and terrorists will be around for a while. The other hard part about terrorists/terrorism is that it is very hard to seperate a freedom fighter from a terrorist; as the classic quote goes “One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.”

  • UltimaRatioReg

    I will wait hopefully for the DNA confirmation. He wouldn’t be the first to have had a number of doubles. There were half a dozen reports of Hitler’s body being found in 1945*.

    (*When we know all along he is on a U-boat off Argentina with Elvis, Mengele, Jim Morrison, and Ted Williams’ head.)

  • Bucherm


    The US Government hasn’t been in the business of releasing postmortem photos without censorship for decades. I don’t need to see the photo. The people who are already going “Where’s the PHOTO??” Are just as likely to claim that the photo is photoshopped.

    If Bush(or Clinton) had been president during this operation, I would have expected the same delay in the photo being disseminated(especially as we’ve put a round or two in OBL’s head and we aren’t really in the business of putting nasty images out there as a warning to others).

  • @URR – BS! The Splendid Splinter would have headbutted Hilter off.

  • Surfcaster

    Thank you Maggie!

  • The Usual Suspect

    Well, at least Obama made a decision. He is still the great ditherer and he always will be, but he made the right call at the right time. Good for him and good for us. The big BZ goes out to the operators and the professionals who tracked this murderer for the last 10 years and then put two in his head. We should feel good about this accomplishment. Bill Clinton, he should hang his head in shame. These last ten years could have been avoided if he had not been so concerned about the niceties of having a reason to take possession of OBL when he was offered up to us by another government. Lawyers, they lose sight of the practical – sometimes a little more Machiavelli and a little less Blacks Law goes a long way. I would like to see the pictures just to close the loop. I’ve got a couple of friends on my wall that I feel a little more justification for today. This was like getting Yamamoto; it ain’t over, but it feels good.

  • What will be interesting is seeing how Obama’s #2 man reacts, and especially how AQ responds to him. He isn’t in any way as charismatic as Osama, and reports are that he has the personality of the Doctor he is. It may well be that someone else decides THEY should be in charge, and Lord knows AQ is as full of egos as the DailyKos readership. Might make for some interesting red-on-red action.

    The other bit will be tracking down Adam Ghadan, their American PR flunky. His contact info must be somewhere in all that hardware scarfed up, so you know he’s like as not looking for some clean underwear and a new hiding place. I’d very much like to see him captured and stand trial and executed for treason.

    But the good CDR is square in the black about AQ being a franchise outfit, and the more worrisome aspect isn’t a coordinated attack, but some lone wolf actor deciding to strike out on his own.

  • Jay

    URR – off track…again. A good account of Pres Clinton’s efforts can be found in GEN Shelton’s book.

  • Derrick

    Which special forces team committed the operation? I thought it would be either US army or air force, not US Navy SEALs or US marines?

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Other than simple knee-jerk disagreement, what the hell are you talking about?

  • ewok40k

    More of decentralized low level threats to come, I think… Germans just arrested a 3 man cell planning bomb attacks in the Duesseldorff area. More of intelligence and police work, really unsexy. And every now and then someone will slip thru and blow up on a crowded cafe like in Marrkquesh lately.

  • The Usual Suspect

    He’s got you confused with me. I think it’s the stunningly good looks and superior intellect that causes such confusion among mere mortals.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    That is understandable…

  • Matt Yankee

    What about the future of Pakistan/US relations? We did not inform the Paks about this operation for a reason. Are they a part of the Dark Side and if so, don’t we need to confront them? I did see a picture of a Madrassa with some kids overlooking the compound and of course it is also close to their army school…which is a dangerous mix…army, madrassa, and UBL… just 35 miles North of Islamabad.

  • Paul

    ‘Course for all of the newfound conspiracy folks out there, what about the members of Team 6 who did the take down, the crew of the Vinson who no doubt wanted to see Public Enemy #1 be fed to the fishes and everyone else involved. As studies have shown, the more facts that are out there, the more entrenched the real die-hards believe their ideologies.

    While Team 6 deserves all the accolades they get (Navy Crosses all around?) who drove the choppers? Smells of 160th, right? The SEAL member who took the shot that put OBL down deserves something, right?

  • Matt Yankee

    Pakistan harboring terrorists is hardly a conspiracy theory. For anyone reading the news at least. It is reality and it has been reality for far too long. He lived in that compound for how many yrs?

    Navy Crosses all around but the best reward is Victory.

  • Diogenes of NJ

    Before OBL’s body became dinner for the hagfish, he was awarded a 40 minute “Burial at Sea” ceremony (according to most reports). Now I don’t know if a Navy Chaplin officiated or if the CIA took care of the arrangements (as in the case of the Russian Submariners recovered from K-129 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QU3zVz3i_r4 ), but having been present at burial ceremonies conducted on a surface ship and a P3 – I would like to make the following observations.

    1) OBL was an enemy without honor who is responsible for the horrific death of thousands of American civilians.

    2) Most Navy veterans, who choose to have their remains buried at sea, don’t receive a 40 minute ceremony (especially in the case of P3s – on the bright side, the Chaplin gets to draw his flight pay).

    3) Considering the last time Seal Team six brought in a bad guy, two shots in the head aren’t as bad as a bloody lip.

    4) By now, we fully expect that the enemy will receive better treatment than our own people.

    Follow this link if you’re still considering burial at sea: http://www.navy.mil/navydata/navy_legacy_hr.asp?id=204

    The only words I ever wanted said at my burial are: “Shoot the TDU”. I’m in the process of reconsidering the whole thing.

    “We keep you alive to serve this ship.”
    – Quintus Arrius//



  • Derrick

    Well…off topic, but I’m pretty sure President Obama informed Pakistan of the raid before SEAL Team 6 made it to the compound. I mean…helicopters are pretty slow and loud, and the compound was next to a Pakistani military base, so I’m sure the Pakistani military saw the SEALs coming in on radar. They were probably ordered to stand down and not shoot at the obviously non-Pakistani helos approaching.

    To hazard a guess, I would bet the White House informed Pakistan, Russia, India, China and Afghanistan before the raid took place.

    Pakistan probably denies knowledge in order to appease the anti-American demographic in their country (which may be very large).

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Don’t assume those things. Can you tell me what a non-Pakistani helicopter looks like with no nav lights in the pitch dark? I would bet the contrary, that Pakistan wasn’t informed until the last possible moment, if ever.

  • ewok40k

    I assume EC-130 with someone fluent in all Pakistani dialects onboard ensured no Pakistani fighters flew to intercept… and just in case few fighters flew CAP overhead (presumably F-22s due to stealth)… Also specops helos are famous for being able to fly below radar coverage, especially in mountains… (Guess the terrain type of the Pakistani Northwest Frontier?)

  • Derrick

    Hmm…I forgot the timing of the operation. Yeah…I couldn’t tell 1 helo from another…(and I would sleep through the whole thing too.) LOL

    Also, even if the helos were below radar, wouldn’t the Pakistani military have some lookouts half-awake at the military base next to Osama’s cabin that should have been woken up by the noise and the gunfire? Why didn’t they try to stop the SEALs then? All they would know is that the SEALs were an invading force. They had roughly 40? mins to wake up, grab a coffee/tea, change clothes, load their rifles, stroll outside and take a few shots at the helos as they left the compound.

    I guess if Osama could stay in that compound so close to Kirachi, he was probably loved by a good majority of the Pakistani people. However, there may be some in the Pakistani government that dislike him enough that if given enough money, would leak his location to the CIA.

    Out of curiosity, was SEAL Team 6 always stationed in Afghanistan, or were they flown in specifically for this operation?

  • Matt Yankee


    Pakistan does protect terrorists(it really isn’t a secret). So why would we tell them anything? We even blew up that helicopter on the ground so they wouldn’t give it to the Chinese to copy. We don’t even trust them with a heep of crashed metal. They harbor terrorists and they have the fifth most nuclear weapons in the world. Pray we don’t wait to see what happens with such an explosive mix.

  • Maineiac

    “I am sure he was counseled about Desert One. Some probably advised him to go the route of bombing and cruise missile strikes. He didn’t do that though. Some group in his/our national security team briefed him on what was needed – up close and personal with terminal effect.”

    What make you assume he couldn’t have understood Desert One on his own? Briefed him “on what was needed” Trump was just recently called out for much tamer then this.

    I am taking USNI Blog off my reader. I suggest the editors of USNI Blog have a closer lool at what get posted here.

  • Maineiac,

    Is it an insult to have a date on your cover slide? Does that imply that the briefer thinks the Commander has no idea what day it is?


    Do you really think anything about this post casts the CINC in a bad light?

    “We also need to give a nod to the Commander in Chief. …. He approved that action – high risk, high reward. Right call – right outcome.”


    And if it did – is that verboten? Really? In an independent forum in a representative republic?

    Stay and contribute – but please stick with the facts of the post. In this case, a post written by me. I know what I wrote, I know what I think. You are mistaken. No one is perfect – apology accepted.

  • RickWilmes

    Now that Osama bin Laden is dead the Islamic jihadists should consider what happened to the samurai. After seeing the ‘Dants speech from his porch and the reaction from our future Naval officers the jihadists may want to consider a career change and start brewing beer.


  • R C Chrisman

    Bravo Zulu SEALs. I trust Team Six will be up for the Presidential Unit Citation for all engaged in the assault, it’s planning and support. I also hope the Navy is generous with Navy Crosses and Silver Stars.